Tag Archives: El Chocó

FARC agreement: Colombia´s history of violence and failed agrarian reform

This is part two of three looking at last week’s so-called “historic” Agrarian Reform agreement between the FARC-EP and the Colombian  government as part of Peace talks in Havana. Here, I take a look at Colombia’s history of failed agrarian reforms. This was originally published on May 30, 2013 over at Colombia Politics.  If you want to know more, I strongly recommend that you check out this an analysis of land concentration in Colombia by Ana Maria Ibanez and Juan Carlos Munoz from the University of the Andes.

FARC agreement: Colombia´s history of violence and failed agrarian reform

Soldados de la Fuerza Tarea Omega patrullan y revisan hoy 6 de agosto del 2009 en las selvas de Vista Hermosa  Meta , uno de los campamentos del frente 27 de las FARC, en medio de la ofensiva del Ejercito Nacional por la captura del Mono Jojoy, miembro del secretariado de las FARC. FOTO MAURICIO MORENO EL TIEMPO

Colombia´s government has signed an agreement with FARC guerrillas for agrarian or rural reform as part of the peace process currently underway in Havana.

On Tuesday I looked at the detail behind this accord, today I turn to history for the lessons we can learn from failed attempts at land reform in Colombia.

Colombia´s land; in the hands of the few, not the many

Like in many other Latin American countries, or post-colonial oligarchies/plutocracies, the wealth that comes from the land has been violently concentrated through different processes (genocide of indigenous peoples, colonialism, the encomienda system, agrarian reforms gone awry, free trade agreements/neoliberalism, and of course armed counter-agrarian reform/socio-political violence) for the last 500 years or so.

For historical reasons and due to the armed violence, however, Colombian rural inequality is particularly stark. 

An astounding 52% of the land is owned by 1.15% of the population. The rural GINI coefficient (the standard measure for inequality among economists) is 0.85 (where a 1 means complete inequality/where one person owns everything). Only a fifth of the potentially productive land is actually being put to use.

Colombia is by no means a naturally unequal place. So, how did we get to to this point?

I don’t want to give a history lesson, but I think Sunday’s agreement between the FARC and the Santos Government is not just a deal within it itself, but represents a significant shift in a process of popular (often armed) mobilization for agrarian reform, and counter-mobilization and concentration by the elite.

This process refers not only to Colombia´s current violence (the 49 year long war and humanitarian disaster) but also a defining aspect of the entire way the nation has been organized since the encomienda.

The history of land concentration

Initially, land was organized around the idea of owning the land that one worked (or had workers on). Later, Spanish colonial government allowed private buyers to purchase government estates, and in 1821, the government allowed the direct transfer of public land into private hands.

Under the colonial regime, land belonging to the Church or to indigenous communities was nominally protected from colonization. However, these rights were abolished for indigenous reserves in 1810, and for the Church later on.

The legalization/formalization of uncultivated public land (baldios) was handled by a government who was (much like today’s Colombia) run exclusively by the elite, leading to the creation of even more large estates for the wealthy.

Land, as a way of avoiding taxes, fighting inflation, and building credit, made it an asset which was more valuable than just what it was able to produce, making it (like in most places) one of the most coveted assets by the elites, leaving little for the landless/popular classes.

The colonization of the Colombian territory saw small-scale peasant farmers pushed off their land, forced to move into more marginal areas which they would then make productive. The landed elites would then (often forcibly) push them off of this land, and in the process expanding their territory and further consolidating its ownership.

The peasants, now landless, would move deeper into the jungle/territory/mountains looking for land. This process to a certain extent still occurs today.

A peasants´ revolt?

By the 1920s, peasants organized themselves and went on the offensive. The elites in turn responded with more displacement. This social conflict resulted in the Agrarian Reform of 1936, which because of faulty implementation (and Colombia being a Plutocracy), resulted in the formalization of property again benefiting the elites.

The Landed Oligarchy, sick of having to deal with subversive peasants, also looked for ways of making the land productive by having more capital than labour, leading to the rise of cattle-ranching.

The class warfare was only exacerbated by La Violencia  the civil war between the two political factions representing different sectors of the elite (the Liberals and the Conservatives). Forced displacement became an extremely common practice, and the standard method for resolving disputes over land given the general absence of the state in many rural or peripheral areas of the national territory.

In response to this crisis, in 1961 President Carlos Lleras Restrepo attempted a land reform through Law 135. Nevertheless, again, formalization and the granting of public land led to more concentration.

Only 1 per cent of the land was expropriated from the elite, and most of what was expropriated was poor or low-quality land. Ironically, as the government was promoting land reform, it was simultaneously giving large land owners the benefit of subsidies and tax incentives to increase production, increasing the value of their land, and making expropriation more difficult.

Rise of the narco-bourgeousie

From the 1970s to 1984, the rise of the “narco-bourgeousie” and their desire for land led to the decomposition of large estates, and the consolidation of medium-sized ones.

But while the armed counter-agrarian reform of the expansion of paramilitarism, as well as the booming cocaine industry which laundered much of its wealth in large estates reversed this trend, it also introduced drug trafficking into the historical trend of violent conflict between peasants and landed oligarchs.

In 1994, President Cesar Gaviria Trujillo tried another land reform with Law 160. Instead of focusing on formalization or expropriating land from the elite and redistributing it to the peasantry, however, it worked on the transfer of property through market mechanisms, where by the government would supposedly subsidize 70% of land bought by peasants from land owners.

However, as is evidenced by the case of the women of the Enchanted Valley, a group of displaced women who tried to purchase some land through this scheme and are now not only menaced by armed groups but also by debt collectors, the deal was only real in the halls of power in Bogota.

Paramilitarism resulted in the violent expropriation of 1.8 million hectares of land, or 2.5 times more land that had been re-distributed through the latest agrarian reform.

How different will the FARC, Santos Government reform be? 

The Agrarian Reform thrashed out in Havana runs the risk of not being very different from previous failures. This is particularly true of  how the process of “formalizing” land title (as the current agreement with the FARC seeks to do) usually is used by rural elites for their favour, and not for landless peasants.

But this reform forms part of a larger peace deal which is suppose to be transformative for Colombian society, and so the stakes are higher.

Have Paramilitaries entered where the state hasn´t bothered to go? 

Sure the “New Colombian Countryside” deal sounds promising, but will it run the same risk as the 2011 Victim’s Law (Law 1488)?

Countless courageous community leaders in places like El Choco and Cordoba have been threatened or murdered by neo-paramilitary groups simply for advocating for their land rights.

In Cordoba, there is even a neo-paramilitary group that has deemed itself the “Anti-Restitution Army“.

This resurgence of armed agrarian counter-reform (or perhaps, a consolidation that already took place during the height of the AUC paramilitaries), shows that when it comes to land in “The Other Colombia”, not much has changed in 100 or even 200 years.

The government´s apparently noble policy of trying to help the most disenfranchised in Colombian society is fine, but both the fact that the State is co-opted by the elite, and that the state has no little to no legitimate presence beyond the military in “The Other Colombia”, means it has neither the mandate, authority, or capacity to carry out these reforms.

The State can’t re-distribute land in places it has never bothered to show up for.

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Bojayá: Forgotten by Urbanity, Remembered by the community.

The final part of the three part series on the 11th anniversary of the massacre/Genocide of Bojayá published at Colombia Politics. 

Other interesting links worth checking out is this documentary on the experience of people displaced from Bellavista by the violence, this photo-report on the bellavisteños who were displaced and are trying to make a new life in Quibdó. I’d also like to again emphasize that much of my research for this post came from the Commission of Historical Memory of Colombia and their report on Bojayá, “The Massacre of Bojayá: The War Without Limits“. I would also encourage bilingual readers to check out these series of radio interviews with survivors of the genocide who are memorializing in their own words.

Bojayá, Chocó: The forgotten Colombia

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The communities of Bojayá, in Chocó, and Afro-descendent and indigenous peoples more generally, still face serious challenges and oppressions by the Colombian state, armed actors, and multinational corporations.

Chocó continues to be a FARC, ELN, and (neo-)paramilitary stronghold where groups fight over gold, land for agribusiness, drug trafficking routes, and the obedience of the population living on the rich land.

It is still a central point for the conflict, and produces a disproportionate amount of displacements; most displaced chocoanos end up in Quibdó, or in Medellín where they experience the additional issue of systematic racism and discrimination against people who are rural, chocoano, or displaced.

Chocó is ironically one of the richest areas of Colombia in terms of resources and since the 80s has been the apple of the eye of forestry, agribusiness, but especially mining companies.  Conflict between the communities and multinationals like AngloGold Ashanti has encouraged President Santos to rethink the mining codes.

Chocó also has some of Colombia´s worst indicators in terms of development. Literacy rates a relatively poor, and poverty is over 60%. In the Atrato region, 95% of the population has basic unsatisfied needs, according to government figures.

All these challenges are taken on by the organizations which promote the rights of the indigenous, Afro-Colombian, and displaced populations of Chocó.

These groups include  the “Association of the Displaced People of the 2nd of May (ADOM)”, the “Diocesis of Quibdó” which works through the Comission for Life, Justice, and Peace, “The Regional Organization for the Emberá-Wounaan or OREWA, the “Association of the Indigenous Chiefs of Emberá, Wounaan, Katió, Chamí and Tule” or ASOREWA, and the “Major Community Council of the Integral Peasant Association of the Atrato” or COCOMACIA who have their roots in the struggles for protecting the land against large forestry companies in the 1980s.

These groups do their work despite threats by armed groups.

What does Bojayá mean for Colombia?

We talk of Bojayá as if it were our crisis and the FARC were our terrorists who we must defeat.

And although the story of Bojayá is similar to that of much of Colombia in which local communities and their ways of life are disturbed and uprooted by national dynamics – who are not interested in them but only in what their suffering can get them-  we must understand that although we are all Colombian or even human, there are significant racial, class, rural/urban, and cultural divisions which means that we cannot appropriate the voice or the suffering of the people of Bojayá.

The people of Bojayá have been mistreated and exploited through a process of objectification and silencing since colonization – first they were under the thumb of the colonizers, then the national government who only wishes to extract their riches or speak for their community as part of its counterinsurgency or reparations plans, and now it is menaced by armed groups and multinationals.

The question is whether, when we commemorate the massacre (as we did last week), we allow the community space in which it can be heard on its own terms – or whether the urban, modern Colombia is forced to remember the other, rural (and largely ignored) Colombia only on important anniversaries, when a show can be made?

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The Bojayá massacre, Uribe, and Plan Colombia

The second instalment of three about the massacre of Bojayá and the lack of attention its’ anniversary has received this year, which was graciously published over at Colombia Politics.

For more context on the massacre of Bojayá, check out the first post.

Bojayá massacre, Uribe and Plan Colombia

IMAGEN-11677964-1 Photo: El Tiempo

The massacre of Bojayá represented a low point in war in terms of mistreatment of the civilian population in Colombia, but its horror marks an important moment in the nation´s recent political history ocurring at a turning point in the battle against the FARC guerrillas.

Plan Colombia and elections

The genocide occurred in May 2002, while in February the then President, Andrés Pastrana Arango had called off the four year long peace talks with the FARC, citing a lack of political will on behalf of the guerrillas,

The tragic events in Bojayá occurred during an election campaign in which a fringe-candidate with a “mano dura”/hardline law-and-order agenda, Álvaro Uribe Vélez, emerged on the national stage. The massacre served as political fodder for the then candidate to further paint the FARC as genocidal narcoterrorists needing to be militarily defeated.

Uribe later won the 2002 elections in the first round/without needing a run-off, an historic first in Colombian politics. As President, Uribe (and Pastrana as well beforehand) used the genocide as part of a campaign to get the FARC on “terrorist” lists in the European Union, the United States, Canada and other countries so as to legitimate a military rather than a political solution to end the armed conflict.

Meanwhile, in 1999 Andrés Pastrana had negotiated with Bill Clinton a multi-billion dollar aid package which, although partially focusing on economic development, was mostly military aid. The deal, which was at first framed around fighting narcotrafficking and the War on Drugs was known as “Plan Colombia” and made Colombia the no. 2 recipient of US military aid in the world, behind Turkey.

Following the attacks of September 11th 2001, and after the genocide and the election of Uribe in 2002, the Plan Colombia money was used also to fight the FARC and was seen as a strange convergence between the interests of the War on Drugs and the War on Terror.

Plan Colombia funcs were used to professionalize the army, leading to an historic high in military spending, known domestically as “Plan Patriota”/the Patriot Plan. This plan expanded the presence of the Army into the most marginal and peripheral areas of Colombia in order to fight the guerrillas. The knock on effect of this expansion was to  increase – rather than reduce – violence in the Chocó region in subsequent years.

As Plan Colombia was rolled out, concern grew within the State Department and the US Congress about links between the Colombian Army and the Paramilitary AUC who fought against the FARC.

Survivors´ voices ignored, or forgotten?

Uribe had been warned of the US distaste, and in response, as part of a “reparations” package, constructed ‘The New Bellavista’ (a new church and housing development). All this was done to a more modern and western style, totally foreign to the Afro-Colombian tradition of the local population. And strangely when inaugurating the “New Bellavista”, President Uribe gave his speech exclusively in English.

Many community members (whose language is of course Spanish), felt that the government was using Bellavista – as a community and a project to “show off” as part of its reparations agenda. An affront then, that it seemed as though the government was directing its initiatives to improving its international image and not the people who had actually been affected by the massacre.

Worse still, many of the economic aid projects established by the government and the NGOs were seen as unsustainable; creating dependency rather than development. All of the initiatives in ‘New Bellavista’ were considered by the displaced population in Quibdó to ignore their needs.

Last year, as the 10th anniversary of the massacre was marked, much attention was given to how the community still lacks a medical centre and other basic needs. This, despite the Constitutional Court having declared the community entitled to such investment as part of the reparation package. So, 11 years on and the community stills appears forgotten, the victims of the war not properly attended to, or represented.

There is, too, very little comfort to be taken from the way in which justice has been dealt. 36 members of the FARC-EP, including members of the Secretariat, have been involved in judicial processes concerning the massacre, but only 8 have been convicted. No charges have been brought before the AUC paramilitaries, and least of all now given the legal benefits afforded to them as part of their 2003-2006 demobilization.

Part three of this report will look at the challenges the community still faces, and offer a view for the future.

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The Genocide of Bojayá: 11 years of impunity

This was a guest-post I did for Colombia Politics on the 11th anniversary of the massacre of Bojayá. The first in a three part series. The majority of my research for it came from the amazing work on Historical Memory dune by the Grupo de Memoria Histórica and their report, “La Massacre de Bojayá: La Guerra Sin Límites”/”The Massacre of Bojayá: The War Without Limits”. The initiatives by the BMH this year attempted to create a space where the community is heard in their own words, and I strongly encourage you to check it out if you understand Spanish.

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Photo: Mauricio Moreno, El Tiempo

Thursday marked the 11th anniversary of the massacre of Bojayá in Chocó, Colombia. Anywhere from 79 people, the majority of whom were minors, were killed when the Armed Revolutionary Forces of Colombia (FARC-EP), the Marxist guerrillas, launched an explosive into a church in the community of Bellavista where 300 people were seeking protection from a battle between the revolutionaries and the paramilitaries.

Every year, chocoano communities commemorate the massacre, and use it as a space to advocate for their rights facing current challenges of poverty and marginalization. For the tenth anniversary of the massacre, it was all over the media, yet this year, there is scant word from any of the nation’s major newspapers including El Tiempo, El Espectador, Semana, etc.

This massacre had huge implications in national politics, Colombia’s image abroad, its relationship with the United States, and most importantly, it evidences the huge gap between ‘The Two Colombias’, and how one promises reparation, and the other is still waiting for it 11 years after one of the country’s worst tragedies.

The massacre bears not only memorializing, but also understanding as it is a microcosm for state abandonment, and the interests and dynamics of how paramilitarism and the guerrillas work within peripheral, marginalized, underdeveloped, and overexploited regions of Colombia like Chocó.

bojaya2The FARC shot the cylinder-bomb which exploded in the church, allegedly, because the counter-revolutionary paramilitaries were using the church as a human shield during the combat. Many of the civilians fled into the church given that it was the only concrete structure in the town where people could be protected during the armed confrontations between different armed groups. Apparently, the order to shoot the cylinder-bomb came from as high as members of the Secretariat (who some analysts now say they would like to see in Congress instead of continuing in the armed struggle), and the decision to use this illegal and non-conventional weapon was made despite the fact that the weapon is made for static objects, and the paramilitaries were moving.

In other words, it was quite clear to many powerful leaders within the FARC the tremendous danger that using this weapon posed for the civilians caught in the crossfire.

Despite many early warnings by the UN, and a variety of NGOs, it seems that the Colombian Army was complicit in allowing the incursion of paramilitaries in the territory that set off a several day long armed confrontation in the Middle Atrato region of Chocó which eventually culminated in the massacre.

The Colombian government refused to acknowledge its responsibility. The FARC-EP say that it was an “unfortunate accident” and it blamed the paras for using the civilian population as a human shield. The government and the paras said that this proves the ‘barbarity’ of the ‘narcoterrorists’.

The use of the improvised explosive, or pipeta in Spanish, constitutes the use of irregular weapons by the FARC and is therefore a war crime and potentially a crime against humanity. Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch, and other international NGOs as well as Colombian ones have condemned the FARC’s use of the weapon as such.

The massacre, and combat between guerrillas and paramilitaries which had begun in late April of that year, are part of a much larger trend in which Chocó has become a focal point for the armed conflict since 1997.

The war over the Middle Atrato can be considered as a continuation of the war for Urabá. After the federation of paramilitary groups into the United Self-Defense Forces of Colombia (las Autodefensas Unidas de Colombia or AUC) in 1997, paramilitary groups tried to take the Atrato region of Chocó as it was a key corridor for moving drugs, arms, and people from the Urabá region and the Caribbean coast (which by the 90s had become a paramilitary stronghold) into the Pacific region of the country.

Previous expansions of the counterinsurgency in the territory such as the Cacarica and Genesis Operations in 1997 have been linked to the expansion of agribusinesses such as the mono-cultivation of African Palm Oil.

At the same time, the strategic corridor and lack of state presence in Chocó also makes it a very coveted territory by the guerrillas.

The massacre can be seen as part of a much larger pattern of the insurgents taking over the territory, then the counterinsurgents, then the insurgents…

This left, and continues to leave, the people of chocoano communities in a state of vulnerability as the presence of one armed group or the army provokes reprisals and suspicions from the other side.

However, the communities in Chocó were anything but passive objects in the crossfire; since 1999, communities such as Bellavista, have declared themselves ‘Peace Communities’ (Comunidades de Paz) and they have rejected the presence of all armed groups, including even at times the Colombian Army itself.

The massacre led to mass displacements of 5,700 people, and consequently a cultural alienation for the predominantly Afro-Colombian communities affected, who had to leave their traditional territory.

Many of the survivors had to flee the town of Bellavista immediately after the bomb exploded. Many have yet to return to the community, some only returned 8-10 years later. Many of the community’s practices of saying farewell to the dead were unable to occur, leaving a lack of spiritual closure.

Survivors of the massacre however, are not victims. 11 years on and that the community continues to wait for the reparations it is entitled to, and justice in terms of recognizing the complicity of ALL armed actors. The community has, though, organized in several civil-society groups and continues to demand this justice, reparation, and memory.

Many members in the community see the massacre as genocide and a continuation of their historical  displacement from Africa; many consider the battles over their territories as ongoing colonialism.

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War is Development by Other Means: What the latest displacement numbers aren’t telling you

“If the war is a continuation of economics by other means…[then] in Colombia, arms, independent of who wields them, serve the promotion of a social logic of development…” –  Carlos Rosero

This week Colombia was back in the headlines, as a fact that was known nationally for a while now finally made it into the Anglophone mainstream. The International Displacement Monitoring Centre gave the South American nation the unfortunate distinction of having the world’s largest population of internally displaced people, at 5.5 million in its annual report in displacement. Another notable is clearly Syria, who has the fastest growing population of uprooted people, 3 million of the nations 22 million people, and the conflict in the eastern Kivu provinces of the Democratic Republic of the Congo which also displaced 2.4 million after an increase in violence last year that continues today.

The 5.5 million number comes from one of Colombia’s most respected national NGOs, The Consultory for Human Rights and Displacement known by its Spanish acronym CODHES. For decades, the government has claimed that the displaced population in Colombia figures between 3.5-4.9 million, and CODHES has claimed that this number is a gross underestimate, often citing the IDP population at 5.4 million since 2011. Nevertheless, the UNHCR and the Colombian government have slowly started to recognize the value of CODHES methodology, and in so doing their estimates of the IDP population have consequently increased.

These numbers speak volumes to the fact that forced displacement in Colombia, as one of the main forms of violence used by armed actors (and, to a certain extent, one of the few survival strategies of communities) is central to the Colombian conflict and cannot be seen as a consequence/collateral damage of a political issue (the war) but a political, social, and humanitarian issue in and of itself. The numbers also evidence the centrality of controlling territory to the strategies of armed actors (more on that below).

In their annual report, which has been picked up by some media, ‘Columbia’ receives a scant 6 pages despite having the largest population. However, IDMC does recognize challenges with the Victim’s Law (which is trying to provide land restitution to IDPs), and that 230,000 people were displaced last year/although far  from its peak of millions a decade ago, displacement continues to be a very real and present issue.

There is quite a lot that the numbers and supposedly expert analysis from the IDMC and the Norwegian Refugee Council aren’t telling you though.

Firstly, the numbers are somewhat meaningless in an international sense. There is no point in having a sensational “Displacement Olympics” in which Colombia is the gold medal winner and Syria is a rising contender. Although the country’s international image which in terms of security is largely constructed around drug trafficking and kidnapping makes displacement an invisible crisis, comparisons are a bit dangerous. For many years, Colombia was cited as having “the world’s 3rd largest” IDP population after Sudan and Iraq, and then the second only after Sudan, and now Colombia is the undisputed champion. In the early 2000s, when violence was at its height, being the nth country on the list in comparison to Iraq, Afghanistan, or Sudan would have been cold comfort to the millions of people who were violently being uprooted every year from their homes.

Any displacement is too much displacement and we have to think about the way we talk about nations in the Global South. If ‘just’ 50,000 were displaced by war next year in Canada, that would give a lot of people pause. Why are millions of displaced in countries/regions associated with war seen as somehow natural or different?

Secondly, the oft-cited 3.5, 3.9, 4.5, 5.4, and now 5.5 million figures when it comes to displacement in Colombia actually only begin counting from 1985 to the present day. This manifestation of war began in 1964. Therefore, there are literally 20 years of war whose effects on displacement we really don’t know about.

Thirdly, Colombia’s large (and sensationally constructed) displaced population often obscures the fact that between 500,00-1 million Colombians left the country as refugees mostly to Venezuela, Ecuador, Spain, the US, and Canada. If you count these, the number of people who have left their homes due to violence in Colombia is closer to 6.5 million.

Fourth, there is a much larger point about how we conceptualize and consequently prioritize certain kinds of violence. Countless not only Colombians, but Latin Americans, Africans, and many others are currently being displaced by the development of large extractive/mining projects and mega-infrastructure projects. Furthermore, the large amount of violence currently occurring in Mexico and Central America which has displaced thousands is considered criminal, and not political/not related to war. The neo-paramilitary groups, known by the Colombian government as “BACRIM”/criminal bands, are (in my view incorrectly) being framed as criminal actors, and not stakeholders in the political and social armed conflict, and therefore their victims are not entitled to the same reparations which people dispalced by the FARC-EP, ELN, or the Army are.  For example, all actors in Colombia’s conflict are involved, in different ways and proportions, to drug trafficking and mining.

So we have to ask ourselves, why are we being so narrow as to focus on “displacement caused by war”, as if we can define when political violence ends, and criminal and economic violence begins, and as if one is more pressing than another. Therefore, the numbers presented by IDMC represent only a very particular type, and fraction, of the general problem of powerful actors creating insecurity and fear leading to forced migration. Although they nod to the displacement created by these neo-paramilitary groups with an ambiguous political status, the media has framed these as displacements due to traditional understandings of what constitutes war or political violence.

IDMC’s analysis also features the gendered, racialized, classist, and anti-peasant dimensions of forced displacement. Displacement in Colombia disproportionately affects Afro-Colombians and  indigenous peoples (who live in rural areas, typically rich in resources and coveted by armed groups), people who are lower-class (94% of IDPs are poor, although many are impoverished due to displacement), people who are peasants or live in rural areas (although intra-urban displacement is becoming a growing phenomenon). Displaced people are disproportionately single women with children.

However, the report does not mention how many indigenous people are displaced to other indigenous communities, or in areas so remote, that their experiences are often not captured by official records. Moreover, the report, although recognizing that forced migration effects indigenous and Afro-Colombians in particularly, it does not mention the unique relationships of these groups’ respective identity to the territory in the rural context and how displacement from the rural land to the city is often also a process of cultural and social alienation, exacerbating the sense of loss in terms of identity, territory, autonomy, and culture. Furthermore, many Afro-Colombian intellectuals and activists have considered displacement not as a part of war, but as another manifestation of the violence of colonialism which displaced them from Africa, enslaved them in the Americas, and is now again displacing them for their territory in Colombia.

The number also isn’t telling you about how individuals who we have dehumanized under the decontextualizing, technical, and sanitized label of “internally displaced person” or “IDP” (desplazado in Colombia) are subjects with agencies and individual stories. Many Colombians have never been displaced. Many more have been displaced multiple times in their lives. For many, the word “IDP” or “displaced” leads to a stigma of being not only a victim, but associated with the war. In Colombia there is the very ugly prejudice that if someone was displaced, “it must have not been for no reason”. Many communities and people who are displaced, like all of us, have strong ties to their neighbours, friends, territory and social world in which they inhabited, all which are violently unmade by  displacement. Forced migration has to be understood as a very human process of displacement in which one’s social relationship  to geographic space and others is traumatically broken.

But the label is also dehumanizing in that it only sees the displaced person as an object to be effected by armed groups, an obstacle in the crossfire. Nevertheless, people in Colombia (and elsewhere) are subjects and many of them after being displaced actively advocate for their rights and demand justice. However, the demand for restitution of land by survivor’s groups coupled with the Colombian state’s denial of the continuation of paramilitarism has resulted in leaders and representatives of displaced communities being among the primary targets for selected assassination and threats by armed groups. Again, displacement is therefore an issue central, and not collateral, to violence. The IDMC report does mention that in 2004, the Constitutional Court considered the murder of these advocates to be ‘crimes against humanity’.

The final, and in my view, most important thing that forced displacement is about how the Colombian conflict is intimately tied to, some would even say caused, by a need to control land and the political and economic opportunity which it represents.

The report cites “internal armed conflict” and “criminal violence” as causing displacement, as if these do not intertwine and as if these exist in a vacuum isolated from the social world of politics, economic development, the interests of the plutocracy, social movements, and other factors.

Although forced displacement due to armed conflict becomes hypervisible to us in the West and Global North given its humanitarian (and sensational) nature, the root causes of much of this violence becomes invisible because it enables our economic development. The Canadian Pension Plan (CPP) invests in mining companies who are allied with neo-paramilitary groups who displace. Therefore, displacement is not a side-effect of a war which we seldom understand and only see glimpses of through our television screen in Canada, but it is actually necessary for our way of life.

As Colombian-American Anthropologist Arturo Escobar says, displacement is constitutive of capitalist economic development. More land is perpetually needed to fuel growth, and the people living on that land are an obstacle to that development if they are not aligned with it. It bears mentioning here that one of the “economic engines” of President Juan Manuel Santos’ development plan is mining, which has been very much tied to paramilitary displacement. Multinational corporations in the form of mining and agribusiness, drug traffickers, and cattle ranchers, all have a vested stake in having the Colombian land without the people on it.

Many rural displacements, which occur in ‘The Other Colombia’ where a lack of state presence led to the incursion of the insurgency, and then the counterinsurgency, are in areas where the state has only recently appeared, and now sees the riches which the land offer for ‘development’. Livelihoods and ways of being which are counter to the nation-building economic project, which perhaps benefits more Urban Colombia than Rural Colombia, such as fishing, subsistence agriculture, artisanal mining, are displaced to make way for large-scale mega-projects that fit within the logic and supposed rationality of extractive capitalism. Displacement needs to occur to let the nation-state develop since Colombia for a long time was an unconsolidated state; displacement is the violent resolution of the tension created by the different social philosophies of Urban Colombia and Rural Colombia.

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La Histórica Marcha para la paz – sus intereses, su significado, el precio de la paz, y sus excluidos

Foto: EFE.

Hoy día en las calles de Bogotá millones de cuerpos colombianos se salieron a las calles, diciendo que ya no quieren mas amenazas a la integridad y seguridad de los mismos cuerpos. Estos cuerpos, despues de 49 años de asesinatos, masacres, lesiones, minas antipersonas, despariciones forzadas, reclutamientos forzados, desplazamientos forzados, violaciones, torturas, secuestros, bombas, y amenazas, quieren traer a la realidad el sueño de una Colombia en paz en vez de una en guerra contra los subversivos.

La marcha fue inicialmente organizada por La Marcha Patriotica y Colombianas y Colombianos por la Paz, liderados por la ex-senadora y auto-denominada defensora de derechos humanos, Piedad Córdoba. Esta fue una movilización pacifica en favor del actual proceso de paz entre el gobierno colombiano y la mayor insurgencia en el país, las FARC-EP.

La movilización se esta realizando en el símbolico 9 de avril, el día nacional de memoria y solidaridad con las víctimas, y el anniversario del asesinato del caudillo Libéral, Jorge Eliecer Gaitán Ayalo que desató el periodo de guerra llamado “La Violencia”.

Algunos medios estan hablando de que asistieron diez de miles a la marcha en solo la plaza de bolivar; otros, especialmente en las redes sociales, ponen la cifra de asistentes en mas de un millón solo en la capital.

En un sentido, esta marcha se puede considerar como histórica en que muestra un completo cambio de tono de las movilizaciones. Hace solo 5 años, la marcha ‘histórica’ fue la del Sr Oscar Morales quien a traves de Facebook organizó la campaña de “Un Millón de Voces Contra Las FARC” que movilizó, por la primera vez en años, millones de colombianos en contra de ese grupo armado. Sin embargo, esta marcha fue fuertemente críticada por su parcialidad (tapando los crímenes de los paramilitares y las Fuerzas Armadas) y por validar el discurso guerrerista y anti-guerrillero del establecimiento político y su contrainsurgencia. Vale resaltar que el ex-Presidente Uribe apoyo esta marcha y sus objetivos.

Ahora, se habla de una marcha pacifica en contra de la guerra y por la paz, organizada por unas entidades que son por nada non-controversiales (la ex-senadora y la Marcha Patriotica han sido acusadas de tener vinculos con la insurgencia marxista). Sin embargo, el país en esta ocasión parece unirse en una marcha multidinaria, sin importar las diferencias sociales y políticas de los participantes, en contraste a la marche de hace cinco años que estaba mas explicitamente ligada a intereses políticos particulares.

Aunque fue organizada por estos seres que todavia tienen una posición ambigua y controversial en el imaginario público, la marcha y su gesto para la paz fue bien recibida por muchos sectores del pensamiento corriente – el propio Presidente de la República, Juan Manuel Santos Calderón, invitó a los colombianos a marchar. El Partido de la U tambien ha estado en favor, y el alcalde de Bogotá, Gustavo Petro tambien llamo con mucha pasión a los colombianos a unirse a este gesto de solidaridad con las víctimas. Hasta los medios corrientes también domestraron su apoyo para la marcha.

Mejor dicho, los manifestantes de la MP quienes vinieron de todas las partes del país, muchos de ‘la Otra Colombia’, invitaron a la Colombia urbana y de clase media a temporaneamente olvidar sus divisones sociales y marchar por una paz común. Y la invitación, inesperadamente, fue bien recibida por la sociedad urbana que hace pocos años estaba marchando en pro de la contrainsurgencia.

Yo creo que la reflexión del editor de la Revista Semana mejor describe el momento político que ocurrió hoy:

En este sentido, quizá la principal lección del 9 de abril no es simplemente que el gobierno logró un importante apoyo callejero y popular a su política de negociación, sino que colombianos de orillas muy distintas, incluso enfrentadas, lograron coincidir por un día, en completa calma, en torno a un objetivo común. Pasada la marcha, por supuesto, las diferencias seguirán. Pero hay muy pocos precedentes de una alianza que vaya de lo más granado del establecimiento hasta lo más ‘duro’ de la izquierda a favor de la paz y la solución negociada. Hasta las Farc y el Eln dieron su apoyo a la manifestación.

Sin embargo, la marcha para la paz, irónicamente, pese a su caracter unificador, también resaltó las profundas divisones sociales y políticas que el proceso a agujido. Oponentes a la marcha incluyeron la rara combinación del Polo Demócratico Alternativo (aunque el congresista Ivan Cepeda y Gustavo Petro asistieron), y por supuesto, el ex-Presidente Uribe y su Puro Centro Demócratico. Los izquerdistas, por su parte, no quieren legitimizar una supuesta politicización del proceso usado por el Presidente Santos para su reelección.  Los uribistas, consideran que negociar con el grupo armado es legitimizarlo y que el proceso esta negociando ‘temas de nación’ con un grupo de ‘narcoterroristas’. En particular, el expresidente a traves de su radio-periodico de Twitter trato a la marcha de un ‘irrespeto’ para las víctimas de la insurgencia.

La marcha tiene bastantes apuestas políticas como lo contó La Silla Vacía- primero que todo, legitimizó, parcialmente, a la Marcha Patriotica y a la ex-Senadora. También, aunque Santos no marcho hasta la Plaza de Bolivar (como lo dijo el editor de Semana, ‘no hubo foto del Presidente con la ex-Senadora’), se puede ver facilmente como la Marcha le esta dando al Presidente una gran ayuda en lograr el ‘mandato’ popular para la negociación del cual le reclamaba el ex-Presidente Andrés Pastrana en su crítica del proceso.

Todo en este mundo, y mucho más en Colombia, tiene interéses particulares – la paz de Colombia debe ser para todos los colombianos, multidinaria, como fue la marcha de hoy. La paz no le debe corresponder a ningún partido político ni ningún mandatario, pero como algunos del Polo han señalado, esto no es el caso.

De el mismo sentido, tenemos que interrogar: esta marcha, y esta paz, es de quien y para quien? Los que ahora estan sentados en la mesa en La Habana discutiendo el comienzo del fin del largo y sangriente conflicto social y armado colombiano son generales, representantes del gobierno casi exclusivamente bogotanos, y no una representación amplia de quienes tienen  mayor interés en una desmovilización de las FARC-EP (los residentes de las comunidades bajo su dominio). De otra parte, no son los miles de soldados menores de edad ni víctimas de las FARC-EP que tienen su silla en la mesa, pero Iván Marquéz, el no. 2 de esta organización guerrillera y el líder del Bloque Caribe quien ha sido acusado de varios crímenes de guerra.

Mejor dicho, lo que se esta negociando en La Habana es una paz entre victimarios. Tanto el gobierno como la guerrilla se creen las víctimas, y ningunos (aunque Timochenko si se pronunció sobre esto despues de la restitución de tierras por el gobierno colombiano en el Caguán) se han comprometido a darle la cara a sus víctimas.

Esta falta de reconocimiento de sus crímenes (de ambas partas) en PRO de la paz, es muy diferente al discurso de memoria y exigencia a la verdad y la justicia que caracterizó mucho de los mensajes vistos hoy por las calles de Colombia.

No digo que lo perfecto sea el enemigo de lo bueno, pero se tiene que reconocer que como todo en Colombia, este proceso se ha dado a una centralización y burocratización; quitandole el poder y la palabra a los líderes comunitarios y los que siguen viviendo la guerra. Como lo dicen los analistas del CINEP/PP un proceso duradero y legítimo tiene que ser regionalizado. 

El enfoco gubernamental sobre la prudencia (que los guerrilleros también han respetado) hace mucho sentido dado la caotíca naturaleza del Caguán. Se ha hablado en unos sectores de someter el acuerdo a una asamblea constituyente, o un referendo popular (que, por supuesta, podria ser derrotado por el uribismo). Sin embargo, daría mucha pena si la paz, como fue la paz coja del 58 que acabó con la ‘Violencia’ pero abrió el camino para las FARC, sería como la guerra en este país – impuesta por los poderesos sobre ‘la Otra Colombia’ sin consulta ni espacio para sus voces.

Uribe y su Puro Centro Demócratico dice que el no es opositor de la paz, pero que se opone a ‘paz con impunidad‘. La diversidad en la marcha hoy quizas muestra que la mayoría de los colombianos quieren poner sus diferencias al lado y tomar ventaja de esta rara oportunidad para un acuerdo viable con una guerrilla que hace pocos años se tildaba de ‘narcoterrorista’ y hace unas decadas se pensó invencible. Sin embargo, solo porqué los Uribistas no han salido a la calle no quiere decir que no tienen apoyo, y que todas las víctimas esten a favor del proceso.

La paz, como todo en este mundo, vendrá con su precio. Las FARC-EP han dicho reitaradamente que no irán a la carcel como parte de un acuerdo. Ellos se consideran las víctimas; quieren hacer política ahora con garantias y no le quieren dar la cara a sus víctimas, ni de que hablar de cumplir castigo por sus delitos.

Entonces, se puede decir, de alguna manera, que Alvaro Uribe si tiene razón. Indudablemente, va tener que ver un compromiso entre la “justicia” y la “paz”. Muchos en la izquierda, y con buena razón, fueron muy críticos hacia el proceso de desmovilización con las Autodefensas Unidas de Colombia (AUC). Sin embargo, parece muy estraño que el vocero que les esta reclamando a las FARC-EP las víctimas sea el ex-Presidente contra-insurgente y no esta dando esa misma crítica. De todos modos, se tiene que decir que ese compromiso entre la justicia y la paz es un tema muy delicado y controversial; dentro de los medios de comunicaciones corrientes, los políticos, y la mayoria de analistas que estan a favor del proceso hay un lenguaje de llamado al perdon y la reconciliación como si las víctimas se las deben al país, pero ese compromiso (cuanta ‘justicia’ en cambio a cuanta ‘paz’) no es algo que se podrá imponer desde La Habana, ni desde Bogotá. La paz del 58 fue una paz entre victimarios, poderosos, y que fue impuesta, dejando heridas abiertas que dejaron la tierra colombiana fertil para el derramo de sangre de la proxima media decada.

Finalmente, la guerra en Colombia en muchos sentidos si y no es contra las FARC-EP. Esta guerrilla sigue desplazando, matando, amenazando, reclutando, y cometiendo todo tipo de crímenes de guerra y de lesa humanidad, pero la violencia del neoparamilitarismo es mucho más de una amenaza a la seguridad pública que las guerrillas. Esto no quiere decir que la prioridad que se da al dolor humano de las personas que siguen siendo victimizados por las FARC-EP debe ser menor por el hecho que las bandas emergentes son mas violentas, pero si quiere decir que un acuerdo de paz con las FARC-EP (y hasta con el ELN) no acabará con la guerra y la violencia en Colombia de manera holística.

Incluso esta mañana el Presidente Santos en su Twitter reconoció la lastimosa muerte de Ever Antonio Cordero Oviedo, defensor de derechos humanos y restitución de tierras que fue recientemente asesinado en Valencia, Córdoba. Este señor es solo uno de los miles de Colombianos quienes estan siendo victimazados por esta nueva composición del paramilitarismo, y quienes, por el discurso del gobierno de que son simples ‘bandas criminales’ sin conexiones al poder regional y local, no estan recibiendo ninguna marcha hoy. Entre estos miles figuran por ejemplo, las mujeres de la Asociación  Desplazados Dos de Mayo (ADOM) en el Chocó, y las Mujeres del Valle Encantado en Córdoba.

En Colombia, el desarollo ecónomico de algunos sectores esta ligados a la guerra. La guerra es en Colombia, una especia de institución propia. Desarmar esa institución, cuyas raizes estan nexas a tantas otras instituciónes como el poder político, ecónomico, la industria militar, etc va tener un alto precio. La guerra es un negociazo, y para acabar con ella tendra que haber un cambio fundamental en la sociedad colombiana. El emperador del Etiopia, Haile Selassie, en un discurso que fue immortalizado en una canción de Bob Marley llamado guerra dice que “hasta que no haya ciudadanos de primera y de segunda clase de ninguna nación, habra guerra“.

Este proceso de paz entonces debe ser un proceso tranformativo para la sociedad colombiana. No solo de reconciliación entre víctimas, y víctimarios (dos identidades que se cruzan con frequencia), pero de un nuevo contrato social para empezar a deconstruir esa muralla que divide Las Dos Colombias. La paz contra las FARC-EP tiene que ser un proceso que no solo desata un proceso con el ELN, y el neoparamilitarismo, pero que también empieza una conversación mas amplia sobre las violencias estructurales como la pobreza, el machismo, el racismo, la desigualdad, y sobre todo el clasismo que podujieron las guerrillas.

Tendrá el país esa conversación? Hace 10 años hablar de una negociación con los ‘narcoterroristas’ era imposible, y ahora es algo apoyado generalmente. Tomó una decada de contrainsurgencia, desplazamiento, asesinato, parapolítica, y guerra total, pero por lo menos esto demuestra que los colombianos han podido cambiar de opinión, dejar de al lado el guerrerismo y el odio contra las guerrillas en favor de un supuesto bien común (una paz nacional). Pero ese cambio, como lo que vendrá, tuvo un precio.

PS

No todo lo ocurrido fue en Bogotá, les invito a conocer lo ocurrido con el Centro de Memoria Histórica en Buenaventura.

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